Game publishers pissed at Sony over PSN ‘bandwidth fee’

MTV is reporting that third party publishers are seriously unhappy with Sony over its “bandwidth fee,” a policy instituted on October 1, 2008, that demands money for every piece of DLC released on the PlayStation Network. Since fall of last year, Sony has claimed 16 cents for every Gigabyte of content downloaded from the PSN, either for the first sixty days in the case of free content like demos, or forever in the case of paid downloads.

Behind a mask of anonymity, three publishers have registered their anger with MTV, biting back at Sony’s charge, which comes on top of the usual third party development fees.

“It definitely makes us think about how we view the distribution of content related to our games when it is free for us to do it on the web, on Xbox Live, or any other way — including broadcast — than on Sony’s platform,” says one of the sources. “It’s a new thing we have to budget. It’s not cool. It sucks.”

Of course, this is something consumers ask themselves in reverse. It is free to game on the web, or via PSN, but they pay to do it on Xbox Live. It’s a very “swings and roundabouts” situation.

Sony itself has brushed off this thorny issue, claiming to foresee no change to the quality or quantity of its online content. So far, it would seem that this fee isn’t driving away publishers, but as purse strings continue to tighten, could we see a full-scale backlash? After all, it’s been pointed out that the Resident Evil 5 demo — a free piece of content — was downloaded over four million times across the Xbox 360 and PS3. A huge and popular demo effectively causes a publisher to piss money down the drain.

Another source called the fee “an unwanted burden,” and is worried that the subtle nature of the charge could take publishers by surprise when it’s time to pay Sony, “Like leaving your phone off the hook for a long distance call. The meter is still running.”

This looks rather insidious on the part of Sony, and could really start to have a negative impact on the company if this economic climate gets worse. While consumers will appreciate Sony transferring the costs of running PSN to the publishers instead of themselves, those same consumers are now at risk of having a free service with much less on it.

We’ll have to see how it goes. Right now, it would seem that at least the bigger publishers find the PSN’s download fees to be a worthwhile investment. It’ll be interesting to see if they continue to think that way in the future.

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James Stephanie Sterling
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